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Statement Issued On Arizona Tragedy

All sorts of the people are using the Arizona shooting to argue for more restrictive mental health laws. Reform was a keyword that was bandied about in Virginia by the Virginia Supreme Court Commission on Mental Health Reform as they debated more restrictive legislation in that state. Many of the people serving on this commission were endeavoring to reverse some of the great advances in deinstitutionalization launched way back in the Kennedy administration. Will Galston uses that very word in a New Republic article titled A Need To Reform Mental Health. He begins this article by stating that it is going to make civil libertarians unhappy. The reactionary and bigotted individuals associated with the Treatment Advocacy Center, among whom I include both E. Fuller Torrey and DJ Jaffe, are doing all they can to make these crimes in Arizona an excuse to argue for harsher mental health legislation. This is exactly the fear I was expressing in my post Monday. I think this kind of reaction we have to anticipate. Every time any of these groups can use the media to make a case for curtailing civil liberties, they will do so. Those of us who are in the psychiatric survivor movement must make sure that our own arguments in favor of individual liberties, and against such oppression, get before the general public.

The Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry has issued a statement on the shooting that parallells my own thoughts on the subject. It is an impressive statement that I think everybody should read, and so I’ve posted it in it’s entirety below:

CHRUSP statement on Arizona shootings

Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry

44 Palmer Pond Rd.
Chestertown, NY 12817 USA

Statement on the Tragic Shootings in Arizona

January 11, 2011

The Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (CHRUSP) joins in the call to disavow political rhetoric that draws on violent images or promotes the use of weapons as a means to settle disputes. We offer our solidarity and heartfelt concern to Gabrielle Giffords, the other wounded individuals, and the families of those who died. We feel strongly that this tragedy needs to serve as a wakeup call to America, to set aside all forms of hatred, xenophobia and bigotry as well as all incitement to violence, to re-unite as an inclusive society committed to nonviolence in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of this country’s possibilities.

CHRUSP asks all people of conscience to reject an easy pigeonholing of the perpetrator based on an alleged mental illness. Disability profiling does not work to make anyone safer, and it further divides our body politic – making those on the receiving end more vulnerable to scapegoating, discrimination and violence in all its forms, including the kinds of violence masked as help in the mental health system.

CHRUSP does not support discriminatory gun regulations – we do support gun control laws that affect everyone equally. We do not support segregation of prisoners labeled with mental illness in “treatment” programs that amount to medical control – we believe that human dignity includes responsibility for what we do. We support a moratorium on the death penalty for all people – not selective application of any kind.

CHRUSP believes that there is a need to look at the social roots of crime and violence, and to reach out compassionately to those who might benefit from support to turn their lives around before they reach a point of desperation. We do not believe that the mental health system as currently constituted offers such support. Instead it takes an aggressive approach to thoughts, feelings and behavior theorized as being caused by imbalances in the brain – to be eradicated using weapon-like modalities that destroy healthy brain tissue, such as electroshock (ECT), psychosurgery and neuroleptic drugs. Due to laws that allow compulsory treatment and compulsory hospitalization, people who value the gifts of all their thoughts and feelings do not have the freedom to protect themselves and are rendered powerless. This is not conducive to individual or collective well-being, and it is not compassionate.

CHRUSP invites all people of conscience to join together in exploring what it means to live non-violently, and to create opportunities for diverse communities to be heard in these conversations.

The Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (CHRUSP) provides strategic leadership in human rights advocacy, implementation and monitoring relevant to people experiencing madness, mental health problems or trauma. In particular, CHRUSP works for full legal capacity for all, an end to forced drugging, forced electroshock and psychiatric incarceration, and for support that respects individual integrity and free will.